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Sep 06

Today’s News 6th September 2017

  • Undercover In North Korea: "All Paths Lead To Catastrophe"

    Authored by Jon Schwartz via The Intercept,

    The most alarming aspect of North Korea’s latest nuclear test, and the larger standoff with the U.S., is how little is known about how North Korea truly functions. For 70 years it’s been sealed off from the rest of the world to a degree hard to comprehend, especially at a time when people in Buenos Aires need just one click to share cat videos shot in Kuala Lumpur. Few outsiders have had intimate contact with North Korean society, and even fewer are in a position to talk about it.

    One of the extremely rare exceptions is novelist and journalist Suki Kim. Kim, who was born in South Korea and moved to the U.S. at age 13, spent much of 2011 teaching English to children of North Korea’s elite at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology.

    Kim had visited North Korea several times before and had written about her experiences for Harper’s Magazine and the New York Review of Books. Incredibly, however, neither Kim’s North Korean minders nor the Christian missionaries who founded and run PUST realized that she was there undercover to engage in some of history’s riskiest investigative journalism.

    Although all of PUST’s staff was kept under constant surveillance, Kim kept notes and documents on hidden USB sticks and her camera’s SIM card. If her notes had been discovered, she almost certainly would have been accused of espionage and faced imprisonment in the country’s terrifying labor camps. In fact, of the three Americans currently detained in North Korea, two were teachers at PUST. Moreover, the Pentagon has in fact used a Christian NGO as a front for genuine spying on North Korea.

    But Kim was never caught, and she returned to the U.S. to write her extraordinary 2014 book, “Without You, There Is No Us.” The title comes from the lyrics of an old North Korean song; the “you” is Kim Jong-il, Kim Jong-un’s father.

    Kim’s book is particularly important for anyone who wants to understand what happens next with North Korea. Her experience made her extremely pessimistic about every aspect of the country, including the regime’s willingness to renounce its nuclear weapons program. North Korea functions, she believes, as a true cult, with all of the country’s pre-cult existence now passed out of human memory.

    Most ominously, her students, all young men in their late teens or early 20s, were firmly embedded in the cult. With the Kim family autocracy now on its third generation, you’d expect the people who actually run North Korea to have abandoned whatever ideology they started with and degenerated into standard human corruption. But PUST’s enrollees, their children, did not go skiing in Gstaad on school breaks; they didn’t even appear to be able to travel anywhere within North Korea. Instead they studied the North Korea ideology of “juche,” or worked on collective farms.

    Unsurprisingly, then, Kim’s students were shockingly ignorant of the outside world. They didn’t recognize pictures of the Taj Mahal or Egyptian pyramids. One had heard that everyone on earth spoke Korean because it was recognized as the world’s most superior language. Another believed that the Korean dish naengmyeon was seen as the best food on earth. And all of Kim’s pupils were soaked in a culture of lying, telling her preposterous falsehoods so often that she writes, “I could not help but think that they – my beloved students – were insane.” Nonetheless, they were still recognizably human and charmingly innocent and for their part, came to adore their teachers.

    Overall, “Without You, There Is No Us” is simply excruciatingly sad. All of Korea has been the plaything of Japan, the U.S., the Soviet Union, and China, and like most Korean families, Kim has close relatives who ended up in North Korea when the country was separated and have never been seen again.

    Korea is now, Kim says, irrevocably ruptured:

    It occurred to me that it was all futile, the fantasy of Korean unity, the five thousand years of Korean identity, because the unified nation was broken, irreparably, in 1945 when a group of politicians drew a random line across the map, separating families who would die without ever meeting again, with all their sorrow and anger and regret unrequited, their bodies turning to earth, becoming part of this land … behind the children of the elite who were now my children for a brief time, these lovely, lying children, I saw very clearly that there was no redemption here.

    The Intercept spoke recently to Kim about her time in North Korea and the insight it gives her on the current crisis.

    Suki Kim’s North Korean visa.

    Photo: Suki Kim

    JON SCHWARZ: I found your book just overwhelmingly sorrowful. As an American, I can’t imagine being somewhere that’s been brutalized by not just one powerful country, but two or three or four. Then the government of North Korea and, to a lesser degree, the government of South Korea used that suffering to consolidate their own power. And then maybe saddest of all was to see these young men, your students, who were clearly still people, but inside a terrible system and on a path to doing terrible things to everybody else in North Korea.

    SUKI KIM: Right, because there’s no other way of being in that country. We don’t have any other country like that. People so easily compare North Korea to Cuba or East Germany or even China. But none of them have been like North Korea – this amount of isolation, this amount of control. It encompasses every aspect of dictatorship-slash-cult.

    What I was thinking about when I was living there is it’s almost too late to undo this. The young men I was living with had never known any other way.

    The whole thing begins with the division of Korea in 1945. People think it began with the Korean War, but the Korean War only happened because of the 1945 division [of Korea by the U.S. and Soviet Union at the end of World War II]. What we’re seeing is Korea stuck in between.

    JS: Essentially no Americans know what happened between 1945 and the start of the Korean War. And few Americans know what happened during the war. [Syngman Rhee, the U.S.-installed ultra right-wing South Korean dictator, massacred tens of thousands of South Koreans before North Korea invaded in 1950. Rhee’s government executed another 100,000 South Koreans in the war’s early months. Then the barbaric U.S. air war against North Korea killed perhaps one-fifth of its population.]

    SK: This “mystery of North Korea” that people talk about all the time – people should be asking why Korea is divided and why there are American soldiers in South Korea. These questions are not being asked at all. Once you look at how this whole thing began, it makes some sense why North Korea uses this hatred of the United States as a tool to justify and uphold the Great Leader myth. Great Leader has always been the savior and the rescuer who was protecting them from the imperialist American attack. That story is why North Korea has built their whole foundation not only on the juche philosophy but hatred of the United States.

    North Korean girls outside Kumsusan Palace where Kim il-sung is embalmed.

    Photo: Suki Kim

    JS: Based on your experience, how do you perceive the nuclear issue with North Korea?

    SK: Nothing will change because it’s an unworkable problem. It’s very dishonest to think this can be solved. North Korea will never give up its nuclear weapons. Never.

    The only way North Korea can be dealt with is if this regime is not the way it is. No agreements are ever honored because North Korea just doesn’t do that. It’s a land of lies. So why keep making agreements with someone who’s never going to honor those agreements?

    And ultimately what all the countries surrounding North Korea want is a regime change. What they’re doing is pretending to have an agreement saying they do not want a regime change, but pursuing regime change anyway.

    Despite it all you have to constantly do engagement efforts, throwing information in there. That’s the only option. There’s no other way North Korea will change. Nothing will ever change without the outside pouring some resources in there.

    JS: What is the motivation of the people who actually call the shots in North Korea to hold onto the nuclear weapons?

    SK: They don’t have anything else. There’s literally nothing else they can rely on. The fact they’re a nuclear power is the only reason anyone would be negotiating with them at this point. It’s their survival.

    Regime change is what they fear. That’s what the whole country is built on.

    JS: Even with a different kind of regime, it’s hard to argue that it would be rational for them to give up their nuclear weapons, after seeing what happened to Saddam Hussein and Moammar Gadhafi.

    SK: This is a very simple equation. There is no reason for them to give up nuclear weapons. Nothing will make them give them up.

    JS: I’ve always believed that North Korea would never engage in a nuclear first strike just out of self-preservation. But your description of your students did honestly give me pause. It made me think the risk of miscalculation on their part is higher than I realized.

    SK: It was paradoxical. They could be very smart, yet could be completely deluded about everything. I don’t see why that would be different in the people who run the country. The ones that foreigners get to meet, like diplomats, are sophisticated and can talk to you on your level. But at the same time they also have this other side where they have really been raised to think differently, their reality is skewed. North Korea is the center of the universe, the rest of the world kind of doesn’t exist. They’ve been living this way for 70 years, in a complete cult.

    My students did not know what the internet was, in 2011. Computer majors, from the best schools in Pyongyang. The system really is that brutal, for everyone.

    JS: Even their powerful parents seemed to have very little ability to make any decisions involving their children. They couldn’t have their children come home, they couldn’t come out and visit.

    SK: You would expect that exceptions were always being made [for children of elites], but that just wasn’t true. They couldn’t call home. There was no way of communicating with their parents at all. There are literally no exceptions made. There is no power or agency.

    I also found it shocking that they had not been anywhere within their own country. You would think that of all these elite kids, at least some would have seen the famous mountains [of North Korea]. None of them had.

    That absoluteness is why North Korea is the way it is.

    JS: What would you recommend if you could create the North Korea policy for the U.S. and other countries?

    SK: It’s a problem that no one has been able to solve.

    It’s not a system that they can moderate. The Great Leader can’t be moderated. You can’t be a little bit less god. The Great Leader system has to break.

    But it’s impossible to imagine. I find it to be a completely bleak problem. People have been deprived of any tools that they need, education, information, intellectual volition to think for themselves.

    [Military] intervention is not going to work because it’s a nuclear power. I guess it has to happen in pouring information into North Korea in whatever capacity.

    But then the population are abused victims of a cult ideology. Even if the Great Leader is gone, another form of dictatorship will take its place.

    Every path is a catastrophe. This is why even defectors, when they flee, usually turn into devout fundamentalist Christians. I’d love to offer up solutions, but everything leads to a dead end.

    One thing that gave me a small bit of hope is the fact that Kim Jong-un is more reckless than the previous leader [his father Kim Jong-il]. To get your uncle and brother killed within a few years of rising to power, that doesn’t really bode well for a guy who’s only there because of his family name. His own bloodline is the only thing keeping him in that position. You shouldn’t be killing your own family members, that’s self-sabotage.

    JS: Looking at history, it seems to me that normally what you’d expect is that eventually the royal family will get too nuts, the grandson will be too crazy, and the military and whatever economic powers there are going to decide, well, we don’t need this guy anymore. So we’re going to get rid of this guy and then the military will run things. But that’s seems impossible in North Korea: You must have this family in charge, the military couldn’t say, oh by the way, the country’s now being run by some general.

    SK: They already built the brand, Great Leader is the most powerful brand. That’s why the assassination of [Kim Jong-un’s older half-brother and the original heir to the Kim dynasty] Kim Jong-nam was really a stupid thing to do. Basically that assassination proved that this royal bloodline can be murdered. And that leaves room open for that possibility. Because there are other bloodline figures for them to put in his place. He’s not the only one. So to kill [Jong-nam] set the precedent that this can happen.

    A North Korean woman holds a sign that reads “The Sun of the 21st Century” in honor of Kim Jong-il’s 60th birthday at Pyongyang’s Sunan International Airport.

    Photo: Suki Kim

    JS: One small thing I found particularly appalling was the buddy system with your students, where everyone had a buddy and spent all their time with their buddy and seemed like the closest of friends – and then your buddy was switched and you never spent time with your old buddy again.

    SK: The buddy system is just to keep up the system of surveillance. It doesn’t matter that these are 19-year-old boys making friends. That’s how much humanity is not acknowledged or valued. There’s a North Korean song which compares each citizen to a bullet in this great weapon for the Great Leader. And that’s the way they live.

    JS: I was also struck by your description of the degeneration of language in North Korea. [Kim writes that “Each time I visited the DPRK, I was shocked anew by their bastardization of the Korean language. Curses had taken root not only in their conversation and speeches but in their written language. They were everywhere – in poems, newspapers, in official Workers’ Party speeches, even in the lyrics of songs. … It was like finding the words fuck and shit in a presidential speech or on the front page of the New York Times.”]

    SK: Yes, I think the language does reflect the society. Of course, the whole system is built around the risk of an impending war. So that violence has changed the Korean language. Plus these guys are thugs, Kim Jong-un and all the rest of them, that’s their taste and it’s become the taste of the country.

    JS: Authoritarians universally seem to have terrible taste.

    SK: It’s interesting to be analyzing North Korea in this period of time in America because there are a lot of similarities. Look at Trump’s nonstop tweeting about “fake news” and how great he is. That’s very familiar, that’s what North Korea does. It’s just endless propaganda. All these buildings with all these slogans shouting at you all the time, constantly talking about how the enemies are lying all the time.

    Those catchy one-liners, how many words are there in a tweet? It’s very similar to those [North Korean] slogans.

    This country right now, where you’re no longer able to tell what’s true or what’s a lie, starting from the top, that’s North Korea’s biggest problem. America should really look at that, there’s a lesson.

    JS: Well, I felt bad after I read your book and I feel even worse now.

    SK: To be honest, I wonder if tragedies have a time limit – not to fix them, but to make them less horrifying. And I feel like it’s just too late. If you wipe out humanity to this level, and have three generations of it … when you see the humanity of North Koreans is when the horror becomes that much greater. You see how humanity can be so distorted and manipulated and violated. You face the devastation of what’s truly at stake.

  • Bitcoin: Now Accepted As Down Payment For UK Houses

    A UK co-living company has announced that it will begin accepting down payments made in bitcoin, according to CoinTelegraph, making it that much easier for traders hooked on effortless, outstanding returns to speculate in another bubble-prone market: UK housing.

    Co-living pioneer The Collective announced the decision on Tuesday, saying it’s the first developer that will accept payments in cryptocurrency. The company added that it’s exploring how to accept rental payments in bitcoin, which it hopes to implement later in the year. It said that its decision to accept bitcoin was related to demand from international clients.

    The company has pledged to perform a “spot conversion” of users’ deposits – a fancy way of saying it intends to hedge its position – so that it bears any financial risk while holding the deposit.

    “The Collective's online booking form for its Old Oak living scheme, an ambitious co-living development with 550 rooms, will be accepting Bitcoin as a deposit on the flats.

     

    The standard deposit is £500, which equates to about 0.148 at time of publishing. Additionally, with the volatile nature of Bitcoin seemingly holding back its ability to be utilized as a currency, The Collective has pledged “spot conversion,” which means it will bear any financial risk while holding the deposit, returning it at the original value when the tenancy finishes.”

    The Collective’s chief executive and founder Reza Merchant said the decision was a bold move for the UK property market.

    “The rise and adoption of cryptocurrency globally, particularly Bitcoin, is a fascinating development in how people store value and transact for goods and services worldwide.

     

    With many savers and investors now choosing and becoming more comfortable with cryptocurrency, people will expect to be able to use it to pay for life’s essentials, including housing deposits and rent.”

    It’s a major step indeed. Housing prices in London have risen 65% since 2011, compared with bitcoin’s more-than 300% climb since the beginning of the year. But we imagine some less risk-averse bitcoin investors might be attracted to the deal, reasoning that it’s a smart way to lock in their investment returns.

    But London property values might not be as invincible as the world thinks.

    UK’s Land Registry data for three London boroughs shows transaction volumes in London are at all-time lows. Back in December asking prices in London dropped 4.3%, with inner London down 6%. More exclusive areas dropped by as much as 10%.

    Between 2006 and 2016, average home prices in the capital grew from £257,000 to £474,000 or by a very substantial 84.4%. These large gains were 'built' on the back of the very large appreciation in prices between 1996 and 2006.

    Despite this, the Collective’s head of technology, Jon Taylor, told CoinTelegraph that their company is proudly breaking down barriers to bitcoin’s legitimacy.

    “One of the biggest barriers to the popularity of Bitcoin is making it more consumer-friendly, and we believe this will become established as an easy and convenient way to pay deposits.”

    According to CoinTelegraph, private property owners in the US have occasionally priced their property in bitcoin in the hopes of attracting buyers, as well as accumulating the valuable digital currency. A well-regarded Miami trader recently placed his house for sale in Bitcoin after first trying to entice the seller to pay him in bitcoin back in 2014.

    With the economic threat of Brexit looming in the not-too-distant future, some say the UK housing market is headed for a leveling off if not an outright drop. But who knows, maybe we will see one last leg higher as the crypto traders look to cash in their winnings before the next Mt Gox kills the market.
     

  • Australia's Dystopian Future: A Nation Of High-Rise Renters

    Authored by James Fernyhough via TheNewDaily.com,

    Young Australians are increasingly likely to live most of their lives in high-density rented accommodation – and that’s not necessarily such a bad thing.

    That was one of the more controversial findings of a major study into the housing market released in recent days.

    The Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) concluded that capital city home ownership would continue to be unaffordable for at least the next four decades.

    It was grim news for many young Australians, particularly those who have bought into the Aussie dream of owning their own house and backyard in a spacious suburb.

    But the study argued that a lower level of home ownership, and/or a greater level of high-density living, need not be a bad thing.

    In fact, examples from overseas – and even some in Australia – suggest it could be a positive. But this would require a massive shift in policy and, more importantly, attitude.

    What clearly emerged from the report is that there is no one culprit behind the property price explosion; rather, the picture is of a tangled mess of convergent causes, most of which will not go away.

    CEDA blamed all the usual suspects, including foreign investment, negative gearing, capital gains tax rules, interest rates, increasing urban population, limited land supply, restrictive planning rules, and the tendency of stamp duty to discourage retirees from downsizing.

    Professor Rodney Maddock, CEDA’s research and policy committee chairman, said the research showed that “barring any major economic jolts, demand pressures are likely to continue over the next 40 years and supply constraints will continue”.

    In other words, if you’re holding out for the “bubble” to burst before you make your move, you may be waiting a long time.

    Many of the partial solutions were equally as predictable: replace stamp duty with a land tax; raise capital gains tax on investment properties; loosen planning restrictions; and improve infrastructure to more remote suburbs.

    While all of these would help the situation, none would comprehensively reverse the astonishing increase in property prices over recent decades.

    The result of all this is that more and more people will be forced to rent – which, indeed, has already been happening.

    In 1982, the report showed, just over 40 per cent of 25- to 34-year-olds were renters. Now it’s closer to 65 per cent. The proportion of renters has increased in every age group over that time period, excluding the over-65s.

    Predicting this trend will continue, CEDA recommended improving tenancy laws to “provide adequate protection and certainty to long-term renters”.

    It pointed to countries such as Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden, where “long-term contracts exist within the private rental market, and termination is only possible in limited circumstances”.

    The case of Germany is an interesting one. Only ­52 per cent of Germans own their own home, compared with 67 per cent of Australians. Given Germany is a developed country with a high standard of living, this shows home ownership is not a prerequisite for wellbeing.

    At the end of the report, CEDA presents a utopian, and occasionally dystopian, vision of high-density living. It takes the example of an existing high-density development in Sydney’s northern beaches, called ‘The Village’.

    A particularly irksome passage talks about a “hierarchy of spaces to create an intuitive sense of public and private space, without excluding non-residents from the residential parts of the site”.

    While this vision may be off-putting, the fact is this sort of development is the most logical answer to the problems raised by the report. It makes economical and sustainable use of space, and in so doing solves many of the problems we are currently facing.

    However, embracing such an ‘un-Australian’ style of accommodation would clearly require a fundamental shift in attitude.

    But if we don’t make this shift, many younger Australians may find their quality of life greatly diminished, as more and more of their pay goes towards servicing massive mortgages, paying inflated rents, and simply getting to and from work.

  • Hawaii Considers A "Universal Basic Income" As Robots Seen Stealing Jobs, There's Just One Catch…

    Forget social security, medicaid and WIC, today’s progressives have moved well beyond discussing such entitlement relics of the past and nowadays dedicate their efforts to the concept of a “Universal Basic Income” for all…call it the New ‘New Deal’.  You know, because having to work for that “car in every garage and chicken in every pot” is just considered cruel and unusual punishment by today’s standards.

    Of course, it should come as little surprise that the progressive state of Hawaii, which depends on easily automatable jobs tied to the tourism industry, is among the first to pursue a Universal Basic Income for its residents.  And while the idea of passing out free money to everyone seems like a genius plan, if we understand it correctly, as CBS points out, there is just one catch…figuring out who will pay for it.

    Driverless trucks. Factory robots. Delivery drones. Virtual personal assistants.

     

    As technological innovations increasingly edge into the workplace, many people fear that robots and machines are destined to take jobs that human beings have held for decades–a trend that is already happening in stores and factories around the country. For many affected workers, retraining might be out of reach —unavailable, unaffordable or inadequate.

     

    Over the past two decades, automation has reduced the need for workers, especially in such blue-collar sectors as manufacturing, warehousing and mining. Many of the jobs that remain demand higher education or advanced technological skills. It helps explain why just 55 percent of Americans with no more than a high school diploma are employed, down from 60 percent just before the Great Recession.

     

    Hawaii state lawmakers have voted to explore the idea of a universal basic income in light of research suggesting that a majority of waiter, cook and building cleaning jobs — vital to Hawaii’s tourism-dependent economy — will eventually be replaced by machines. The crucial question of who would pay for the program has yet to be determined. But support for the idea has taken root.

     

    “Our economy is changing far more rapidly than anybody’s expected,” said state Rep. Chris Lee, who introduced legislation to consider a guaranteed universal income.

     

    Lee said he felt it’s important “to be sure that everybody will benefit from the technological revolution that we’re seeing to make sure no one’s left behind.”

    But taking billions from hard working Americans to “spread the wealth around” has never been all that difficult before so presumably this too should prove to be a relatively minor issue.

    UBI

     

    In all seriousness, where does Representative Lee and CBS figure Hawaii will get the funding for their guaranteed income plan?  Well, as it turns out, Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes made a very generous $10mm donation to support programs just like thisthe only problem, of course, is that Hawaii would need about 1,000 times that amount to fund Chris Lee’s plan for just one year.

    For now, philanthropic organizations founded by technology entrepreneurs have begun putting money into pilot programs to provide basic income. The Economic Security Project, co-led by Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes and others, committed $10 million over two years to basic income projects.

     

    Tom Yamachika, president of the Tax Foundation of Hawaii, a nonprofit dedicated to limited taxes and fairness, has estimated that if all Hawaii residents were given $10,000 annually, it would cost about $10 billion a year, which he says Hawaii can’t afford given its $20 billion in unfunded pension liabilities.

    That said, it’s difficult to argue with Karl Widerquist’s argument that Hawaiians deserve a “beach dividend” for their heroic efforts in being born and continuing the difficult task of breathing day in and day out.

    Karl Widerquist, co-founder of the U.S. Basic Income Guarantee Network, an informal group that promotes the idea of a basic income, suggests that Hawaii could collect a property tax from hotels, businesses and residents that could be redistributed to residents.

     

    “If people in Alaska deserve an oil dividend, why don’t the people of Hawaii deserve a beach dividend?” he asked.

    And while we have little doubt that Widerquist has fully thought through his suggestion that Hawaii just raise an incremental $10 billion every year via a tax on hotel stays…we thought we’d run the math just to make sure his plan holds water.  As it turns out, roughly 3 million families visit Hawaii for a little R&R every year which means each family would only have to pony up an extra $3,400 per hotel stay to cover Hawaii’s Universal Basic Income plan.  Seem more than reasonable, right?

  • Green Beret Warns: "Skepticism Will Vanish When The Power Suddenly Fails Across The US"

    Authored by Jeremiah Johnson (nom de plume of a retired Green Beret of the United States Army Special Forces ) via SHTFplan.com,

    It should be obvious, now, even to the most vocal and acetic naysayers that no matter how much they try to declare that nothing will happen regarding North Korea, they’re wrong. 

    It is happening, as we speak, and the buildup reached a high octave with North Korea’s sixth nuclear detonation, one that experts are saying was between 100 to 120 kilotons.  This detonation occurred in North Korea’s test facility on Sunday, and North Korean news stated that it was a hydrogen bomb.  Here’s a Wall Street Journal article excerpt:

    “In a televised statement, North Korea described the underground explosion, which triggered a large earthquake, as a “perfect success in the test of a hydrogen bomb for an ICBM.”

     

    Pyongyang said, “the creditability of the operation of the nuclear warhead is fully guaranteed.”  The test came just hours after leader Kim Jong Un showed off what he described as a hydrogen bomb capable of being mounted on an intercontinental ballistic missile.” 

    Now, the Western Consumer Marketing/Euro Arrogance-Confidence News Networks and Politicos all decried North Korea’s capabilities for years. 

    The news-twisters and politicos still only begrudgingly admit what recognized experts have been jumping up and down to warn the public about for years, namely this:

    1. That North Korea does indeed possess nuclear weapons
    2. North Korea does have ICBM’s capable of delivering a nuclear warhead
    3. North Korea possesses the technology and the ability to deploy an EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse) weapon
    4. Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBM’s) are in North Korea’s arsenal
    5. Two satellites (Kwangmyongsang-3 and Kwangmyongsang-4) are currently orbiting the earth, and each satellite passes over the United States several times per day
    6. The possibility exists that the satellites are carrying/have been fitted with an EMP weapon
    7. The central focus of North Korea’s strategic doctrine regarding nuclear war is geared toward an EMP strike

    This is part of that article that shows how science and stupidity go together, as follows:

    In July, it test-fired two ICBMs that experts say they believe are capable of reaching many parts of the U.S. mainland

     

    “The Kim regime made the strategic decision to develop a nuclear armed ICBM that can strike the United States,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor of international studies at Ewha Woman’s University in Seoul.

     

    “It is in a sprint to deploy that capability, because it wants the world to recognize it before returning to diplomatic talks, and before sanctions become unbearable.” However, analysts have been divided on whether North Korea could shrink a nuclear warhead to fit on the tip of a missile. Many also remain skeptical about whether a North Korean warhead can survive the strain of re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere.

    Skepticism will vanish when the power suddenly fails across the United States.  The North Koreans can reach the U.S. mainland with a missile, and it will survive reentry. 

    They can do this, and they will…only it will not come in the form of air-raid sirens blaring and people scurrying to the basements of buildings (as Fallout Shelters don’t exist anymore).  Here is the form that it will take. This is the real “kicker” that was just released Sunday by North Korea’s state-run news agency, reported on Daily Mail and if falls in line with the items just mentioned:

    “North Korea’s state news agency warned that the weapon ‘is a multifunctional thermonuclear nuke with great destructive power which can be detonated even at high altitudes for super-powerful EMP attack.”

    This falls in line with the warnings of Dr. Peter Pry, the head of the Committee to brief Congress on EMP threats against the U.S., the warnings of former Congressman Roscoe Bartlett (R, MD), and a slew of other with access to detailed information on North Korea’s nuclear capabilities.  When asked if the military option is on the table on Sunday, September 3rd, President Trump responded with, “We’ll see.”

    No, ‘We the People’ will see it, but he will not, except on television.  He will be in a bunker a mile underground, or in an area far removed from what happens in the moment of decisive action or the aftermath.  There’s a good chance that nobody will ever see it coming.  Remember: The North Koreans launched a missile that flew directly over Japan!  This excerpt is from AP News on September 1st and summarizes “Japanese readiness” in a nutshell:

    “Japan has a two-step missile defense system, including interceptors on destroyers in the Sea of Japan that would shoot down projectiles mid-flight and if that fails, surface-to-air PAC-3s on land.”

    So, with that “protection,” why didn’t they shoot down the North Korean missile fired right over them last Monday?  Maybe they were waiting for “Mothra” to stop it.

    In any event, it appears the President is going to pursue a military option, as can be implied within his words.  This also comes from the Wall Street Journal article:

    “North Korea is a rogue nation which has become a great threat and embarrassment to China, which is trying to help but with little success.”

     

    He also added: “South Korea is finding, as I have told them, that their talk of appeasement with North Korea will not work, they only understand one thing!”

    What might that “one thing” be?  Whatever happens, you can be certain that if we initiate an attack, North Korea will have allies, as China has already informed the world.  The bottom line is that if you personally have not prepared and formulated a plan if things kick off, then you’re long in the tooth.  Don’t remain in denial that the worst can happen, and take the initiative.  It’s better to be prepared and be “wrong” every day than to be unprepared just once and have the worst come to pass on that day.

    The next world war will be initiated with an EMP weapon detonated over the U.S., followed by a nuclear exchange and conventional warfare.

  • ISIS Urges Supporters To Poison Food At US Grocery Stores

    After urging its supporters in the west to turn cars into weapons, guidance that inspired terror attacks in the UK, Spain and France, ISIS is now calling for sympathizers to poison the food in US supermarkets with cyanide, according to SITE.  

    In recent days, channels associated with the terrorist army have posted calls for attacks on Europe, Russia and the United States to mark the occasion of the Islamic "Sacrifice Feast" Eid al Adha. In the third part of an English-language series on jihad, IS advised would-be attackers to inject food for sale in markets with cyanide poison. According to Spiesa, the organization has tested these methods on prisons, causing horrifically painful deaths.

    “The Islamic State group used prisoners as “human guinea pigs,” carrying out chemical weapons experiments in order to plan for attacks against the West, documents found in Mosul have revealed. The papers detailing the tests, which led to the agonizing deaths of prisoners, were discovered at Mosul University in January when it was recaptured by Iraqi special forces. The documents verified by United States and British forces were detailed by The Times in a report published Saturday.

     

    Prisoners had their food and water contaminated by the sprinkling of chemicals found in easily accessible pesticides. The US and Britain now fear that the same methods could be used on a larger scale to contaminate food supplies in the West.”

    Aside from the obvious death toll, we imagine that a terror attack in an American grocery store would annihilate billions in grocery stock market cap, adding to the industry’s Whole Foods Market-inspired woes. Investors who once saw grocers as an oasis in the troubled retail sector are increasingly balking now that Amazon has promised to use sensors and automation to save on staffing costs and undercut rivals on pricing. And the terror threats won’t help.

    In other Islamic State news, a convoy of 17 buses carrying Islamic State terrorists and their families has been stranded in the Syrian desert since Thursday as the US, Russia, and Syria debate its fate: attack the convoy or allow it to pass?

    In an unusual deal, the convoy of Islamic State fighters and their families was allowed to exit their contested stronghold along the Syrian-Lebanese border under the watch of the Lebanese and Syrian armies and Hezbollah after being defeated. As first announced by Hezbollah's Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah in a speech Monday night, the deal involved the transportation of 26 wounded and 308 ISIS fighters, along with 331 civilian family members via buses and ambulances to Syria's eastern province.

    The images of the convey of terrorists helplessly stranded in the desert is perhaps the biggest blow to their propaganda.

    At the same time, the group is struggling for relevance with a resurgent Al Qaeda, which is encouraging supporters to sabotage trains and other public infrastructure in the US – specifically the New York City subway.
     

  • Period Of Uncertainty Under Donald Trump Appears To Never End

    Authored by Alex Gorka via The Strategic Culture Foundation,

    Has anybody recently seen President Trump in the flesh instead of photos circulated on internet or daily tweets?  Has a quite putsch taken place in Washington? Some people say they’ve  heard it on the grapevine. As rumors have it, the president is isolated and actually destitute of power by the «old guard». Is it possible? You never know.

    John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the U.N., once enjoyed regular access to President Donald Trump. He was among candidates for the positions of national security adviser and state secretary. The president told him he was welcome anytime. He wanted to share his views on the Iran deal with Trump but couldn’t get in. Bolton says he requested a meeting with the president and was turned down. He believes the snubbing is the result of the ongoing struggle between different fractions vying for Trump's ear. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis advocate a more moderate approach to foreign policy than Bolton who is known as a hawk.

    «Trump is on house arrest» says Mike, journalist Cernovich cited by Breitbart. «I kept digging into it and I kept hearing the same thing over and over again», he said.

    One may not believe Mike Cerovich, who is known as a right wing muckraker, but the rumors about Trump being isolated in the White House have been going around for some time, at least among the alt right. According to the Prissy Holy’s report for Freedom Daily, «Ever since Trump got elected as president, there’s been no shortage of Republican traitors working behind the scenes to bring him down. Our suspicions about House Speaker Paul Ryan were confirmed several days ago, after Wikileaks exposed how he was one of 6 Republicans that Hillary bought off in order to form an alliance against Trump».

    There are more reports about the role of Paul Ryan. True or not, the gist of the matter is that the Trump's voters are greatly frustrated over the president. With the sensational victory scored, the winner has got nothing. None of the pre-election promises have been carried out.

    Immigrants of all races and faiths keep on coming, the wall with Mexico appears to be a pipe dream, no tax reforms have been implemented, Obamacare is still alive, the Iran deal is effective as it was before the Trump’s inauguration, and the relations with Russia are far from being improved. In substance, nothing has changed since the Obama’s days. Under Trump, the United States is getting militarily involved in more foreign conflicts that have no relation to the America’s national security. It‘s only natural to ask whether there is any difference between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

    The voters feel deceived. They have started to look for ways to escape from reality. It makes them invent the stories about the good king undermined by his courtiers. And they are looking for fall guys. In this regard, the name of National Security Adviser, Herbert McMaster, is often cited. They believe he keeps in touch with Ben Rhodes, former Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications under Obama. The people close to Ben Rhodes are believed to be responsible for the leaks. Some think the president suffers from dementia.

    Their feelings are hurt by the president’s giving the cold shoulder to his electoral base. The members of the alt-right feel they played a large part in making Donald Trump president. True, it was important to look like the president of all Americans after the inauguration but time went by and the president never expressed his gratitude.

    Pro-Trump media feel offended. They fought hard for him but the president has not even condescended to give any of them an exclusive interview. But he did give an interview to Maggie Haberman of the New York Times – the newspaper that strongly attacked him during the election campaign. In that interview Trump distanced himself from the supporters. He also distanced himself from Steve Bannon, the informal leader of alt-right and his former adviser who has recently resigned. Looks like the president is getting sucked into the very same swamp he promised to drain.

    Rush Limbaugh, an American radio talk show host and conservative political commentator, believes that the Washington establishment – both Democrats and Republicans – are involved in a «silent coup» against President Trump. »These people are trying to take this president out,» he told his national radio audience after the failure of the Senate to pass a bill to replace ObamaCare.

    Alt right feel hurt and abandoned. Using Breitbart to express their feelings, they are looking for a new idol. Richard Spencer, one of the founding fathers of the alt-right, has decided to run for office.

    Some people of the presidential retinue tapped him on the shoulder and told him to go on with the diplomatic war against Russia and close its three outposts in the United States.  Instead of fighting terrorists – something the president promised to do – he keeps on spoiling the relationship with Russia in contrast with what he promised to do during the presidential race. There are things which are hard to explain. Something’s happening behind the certain and it’s impossible to know exactly what it is.

    There is no foreign policy and nothing is clear with one thing said and something different done. Many key positions in State Department and other agencies to shape foreign policy are vacant. People come and go to make the administration look like a revolving door. Sabastian Gorka, who served as President’s Deputy Assistant, is a good example.

    These are the days of turmoil and strife in Washington. This instability affects the policy on Russia. Under the circumstances, no tangible improvement of Russia-US ties is possible. Wait and see is the only thing to do. The United States appears to be unpredictable and unnegotiable – it’s the only thing that’s certain.

  • Thanks, Mnuchin: Lego Slashes 1,400 Jobs As Sales Of "Batman" Toy Sets Falter

    Lego cemented its status as a vaunted turnaround story with the success of the “Lego” movies which – fun fact – were produced by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.

    But after nearly a decade of expansion, the company announced Tuesday that it will be cutting 1,400 jobs as it struggles with weak demand for a new line of “Batman” play sets that’s contributing to its worst downturn in more than a decade. The cuts, the company's first in 10 years, would be tantamount to letting 8% of its workforce go. The move came after Europe’s largest toymaker said Tuesday that sales in the first half fell 5 percent to 14.9 billion kroner.

    “We’re losing momentum and we’re losing productivity,” Chairman Jorgen Vig Knudstorp said on a conference call. “We have built an increasingly complex organization. This could ultimately lead to stagnation or decline.”

    According to Bloomberg, Lego is suffering its biggest crisis since 2003 and 2004, when the maker of colorful plastic bricks reported record losses. After a turnaround led by Knudstorp that transformed the struggling brand into the world’s most-profitable toymaker, sales have slumped anew as children spend more time on digital devices. Predictably, the shift has created tumult in the C-suite amid rapid executive turnover.

    The company, which is controlled by the family of Danish billionaire Kirk Kristiansen, promoted Chief Operations Officer Bali Padda to succeed Knudstorp as CEO as of Jan. 1, but said last month that he’ll be replaced Oct. 1 with Niels B. Christiansen, the former boss of Danish engineering giant Danfoss A/S.

    Knudstorp has said he’s taking responsibility for creating an organization with “too many layers and overlapping functions,” a move that prevented the company from realizing its “growth potential.”

    Retailers have started to complain about the weak Lego sales, which are suffering from “significant weakness in demand.” “The Lego Batman Movie,” an animated film featuring the superhero and the company’s bricks, hasn’t generated the toy sales that Toys R Us or Lego expected, he said.

    According to Bloomberg, Knudstorp declined to comment on the performance of the Lego Batman products, though he said they made “a positive contribution” to first-half results. Lego’s Star Wars product line “remains one of our top categories globally, but it has slightly declined for us this year,” he said. Knudstorp said brands that Lego invented, including Lego City, Lego Friends, Lego Duplo and Lego Technic, were the best performers in the period. Still, the company’s net income in the first half declined by 3 percent to 3.4 billion kroner.

  • US Bitcoin Exchange Coinbase Hits 10 Million Users

    After two (and soon three) “generational” market crashes, Joe Sixpack may have lost interest in the stock market (or at least in single names, the transfer of bagholder rights from institutions to retail investors via ETFs is doing just fine), but when it comes to chasing torrid, upward price momentum, US retail investors are doing their best frenzied Chinese housewife impression now that they have discovered the next big bubble thing, and it’s called bitcoin. And nowhere is America’s sudden infatuation with cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, ethereum, litecoin and all other “coins” which can make (or break) a hedge fund’s annual return in days if not hours, more obvious than on Coinbase, the US bitcoin exchange, which has just hit a remarkable 10 million registered users, all of whom are there for just one thing: to trade, but mostly buy, crypto currencies.

    The San Francisco startup has seen tremendous growth in 2017, adding thousands of users per day and handling increasing levels of trading volume. Last month, CEO Brian Armstrong announced that the company had raised $100 million during its latest funding round, giving the company a valuation of $1 billion, making it first “bitcoin unicorn” according to Cryptocoinsnews. A few weeks later, following the latest burst higher in bitcoin, Coinbase has surpassed 10 million registered users. In the last three weeks of August, the bitcoin exchange added an astonishing 800,000 users as the bitcoin price briefly rose above $5,000. According to data from the Coinbase website, the exchange and wallet service has also recently surpassed $20 billion in total volume.

    While many bitcoin veterans have panned Coinbase for its simplistic approach to trading (no limit orders, no shorting, etc) and exorbitant fees, some actually enjoy the minimialist, if expensive, experience: one user on reddit, btcltc77, referred to the exchanges as the “McDonald’s of Bitcoin banking.”

    Coinbase is still the most mainstream way of buying Bitcoin. It’s the McDonald’s of Bitcoin banking.

    That, and the implied safety net from its increasingly bigger venture backing, appears to be working and has made Coinbase the go-to site for millions of armchair cryptocurrency investors.

    To be sure, Coinbase has not been without its challenges as it marched toward this impressive goal. Throughout the year, it has been embroiled in an ongoing legal dispute with the IRS over whether it should have to release personal client information to the agency.

    It has also struggled to scale its business operations as fast as it has gained users, resulting in multiple outages throughout the year during periods of extreme market volatility, with many clients noting that one can determine if bitcoin is crashing without knowing the price, simply because the exchange is offline.

    Moreover, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has been flooded with 4,700% more complaints about Coinbase so far in 2017 than it did in all of 2016 (which is understandable in light of the surge in users). More than a third of the grievances have come from users who said they were unable to access their money when promised. Many also complained about other transaction or service problems. Accusations of fraud represented less than 15% of the complaints.

    Coinbase, which was founded in 2012, said in June that it’s working to improve customer support. The exchange has grappled with a slew of performance issues, including outages, slow load times and a flash crash in ether, the second most valuable virtual coin.

    “Over the past few months, we’ve seen an unprecedented increase in the number of customers signing up to use Coinbase,” wrote the company’s co-founder and CEO, Brian Armstrong, in a June 6 blog post. “As a result, our systems have been pushed to the limit. This has caused many customers to have a negative experience.”

    The company has pledged to devote Q3 (not to mention spending some of that brand new $100 million) to focusing on operational excellence, scaling, and an improved customer experience. It probably won’t rush though: since it has a near monopoly on the retail crypto market in the US, as long as bitcoin keeps rising new clients will keep pouring in, no matter how much they complain about the underlying infrastructure.

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